Traditional Thai dancers perform during the opening ceremony for King's Cup Elephant Polo 2013 Tournament in Hua Hin, Thailand. (Photo: www.anantaraelephantpolo.com)
Traditional Thai dancers perform during the opening ceremony for King's Cup Elephant Polo 2013 Tournament in Hua Hin, Thailand. (Photo: www.anantaraelephantpolo.com)

The twelfth edition of the King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament has started in Thailand, beginning 28 August, in the royal seaside resort town of Hua Hin.

The King's Cup Elephant Polo 2013 saw a grand opening ceremony with a spectacle of local celebrities, elephant polo players, a colourful parade and about fifty participating elephants. The elephants gently swayed as traditional Thai dancers performed at the opening event, according to the tournament's official website.

The 2013 elephant polo tournament features street elephants that are fed properly for the event every year.

"One of the main aims of this event is to take as many elephants off the streets of Thailand as possible during the event. Last year we were able to take over forty street elephants and make sure they were properly fed, and received vitamins and veterinary care while at the event," Bill Heinecke, owner of Anantara, the resort where the tournament is taking place, said in a statement.

The tournament, first held as a small two-day event in 2001, has become Thailand's major international event. Its popularity was quite evident during last year's event in which 12 teams with 40 players took part. The participants also included German royals, Prince Carl-Eugen Oettingen-Wallerstein, his wife Princess Anna, the New Zealand All-Blacks rugby team and Thailand's famous transgender cabaret team Miss Tiffany's.

The elephant polo tournament is also one of the most popular charity events of Thailand. The week-long tournament that ends on the first day of September has raised $600,000 (£0.4m) so far. The funds raised from this year's event will be donated for several projects to conserve elephants across Thailand.

"We must never forget the true meaning of holding this event and that is to raise awareness and as much money as possible towards the conservation and welfare of Thailand's elephant population," Heinecke added.

Here are a few photos from the opening day of King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament 2013.

The opening ceremony for King's Cup Elephant Polo 2013 Tournament in Hua Hin, Thailand, was a colourful event. (Photo: www.anantaraelephantpolo.com)
The elephants gently swayed as traditional Thai dancers performed at the opening event. (Photo: www.anantaraelephantpolo.com)
The elephants gently swayed as traditional Thai dancers performed at the opening event. (Photo: www.anantaraelephantpolo.com)